Of those who enjoy gambling, most regard it as simple entertainment, but for some, it can become a debilitating problem. When the decision to gamble becomes an impulsive need, friendships, jobs, even marriages may be threatened. If you suspect your employee or co-worker has a gambling problem, it is important to understand a few basic facts:
- Most people gamble without risk of a disorder, but for some, problem gambling can quickly spiral out of control.
- Problem gambling is not the result of boredom, weakness or irresponsibility, but rather a pathological problem, often with dire financial and personal consequences.
- The desire to help someone with a gambling problem can manifest itself through arguments, guilt and pleading, but professional treatment is the best way to lasting change.
An obsessive need to gamble is similar to a need for drugs or alcohol; it can manifest in any part of a person’s life, even the workplace. The issue can become so desperate; employees may even commit theft, fraud or embezzlement. While this is extreme, it is never beyond the realm of possibility.
A gambling disorder can have a variety of negative impacts on the workplace ranging from decreased employee productivity to theft, embezzlement or fraud.
Signs and Symptoms
While initially a veiled inconvenience, problem gambling can snowball and present itself in several forms. In a workplace setting, this can range from performance deterioration to red flags such as borrowing money from co-workers or requesting pay in lieu of vacation time. Be especially aware of continually unexplained absences, when assignment deadlines are missed and the inability of the employee to concentrate on work-related material. Other indicators may include eager distraction with organizing and participating in betting opportunities, creating office pools or using work time to gamble online. To determine whether an employee is struggling with a gambling problem, consider the following warning signs:
- Gambling longer than planned
- Gambling until the last dollar is gone
- Thoughts of gambling preoccupy daily life
- Bills begin to go unpaid
- Attempts to stop gambling are unsuccessful
- Criminal activity to fuel gambling
- Borrowing money from friends and family
- Feelings of depression or suicide after losing
- Feelings of remorse after gambling
- Gambling to meet financial obligations
Employers and co-workers are often in the unique position to observe a gambling problem, provide intervention resources and potentially assist in the recovery process. Consider these steps to mitigate the potential impact of problem gambling on your organization:
- Provide management training about how to identify and address a potential gambling problem
- Provide awareness training and confidential resources for all employees
- Develop a company gambling policy that is consistently enforced
What is the appropriate way to raise the issue of a co-worker’s problem gambling?
It is vital to keep a few key points in mind when approaching someone you suspect has a gambling problem:
- Be an advocate for change, expressing your concerns in a supportive manner
- Use work-related observations
- Explain how the problem affects you
- Respect personal boundaries while still positioning yourself as an aid in recovery
- Provide information
- Be positive, but also prepared for denial or a hostile reaction
To watch a brief video on starting a conversation with an employee, click here.
It is important to acknowledge and address potential gambling issues early, before they have the chance to negatively affect a person’s employment and personal life.
Tips for management
While recreational gambling can be entertaining in moderation, problem gambling is not. And whether an employee at your business has a gambling problem or not, it is useful to have a company policy regarding such activity. Make the company’s position clear in regard to gambling and compose a mandatory piece of literature for all new hires (and current employees) to read.
To facilitate discussion of this issue, an organization can also provide awareness training and referrals to financial counseling.
Having trouble starting a conversation?
Each situation is different. To help, please read the tips.
CALL FOR CONFIDENTIAL HELP
Treatment is available free of charge for qualifying individuals throughout Minnesota.
One of the best ways to assist someone struggling with a gambling problem is to know the resources available to you. The following resources are available:
Minnesota Problem Gambling Program
- There are State funds available for treatment services to Minnesota residents who meet the clinical diagnosis for compulsive gambling and demonstrate financial need.
- State-approved treatment providers can be found at nojudgement.com and are listed by county, city. and provider.
- Call Minnesota’s 24-hour, toll-free, confidential help line at 1-800-333-HOPE or text HOPE to 61222.
National problem gambling helpline
• Free, 24/7 availability
• Available at 1-800-522-4700
• Answers questions and provides resource information
PDF: Tips for Talking to an Employer/Coworker About Problem Gambling,
What to say to someone with a gambling problem
Tell them you’re concerned.
Express to them how important your relationship with them is and that you want them to get help for their problem gambling.
Example: _________, I need to talk to you about something serious. I’ve noticed recently that you haven’t been your usual self, and I’m concerned. Your relationship with me is very important, and I don’t want anything to damage it. I want to know if we can talk about what might be going on?
Be specific about your concerns.
Talking about finances with a parent can be difficult because of family dynamics, particularly in relation to problem gambling. Tell them how their gambling negatively affects their relationship with you. Be specific and use examples.
Example: I’m concerned about the extent to which gambling has become a part of your life and how it’s affecting our relationship. You are a very important part of my life.
Don’t judge, instead listen.
If you want them to hear you out, you need to give them the same courtesy. Allow them to speak their mind, and let them know you heard what they have to say.
Example: __________, I hear what you have to say and want to help you find a solution before the situation becomes worse.
Say what you want them to do.
As the younger generation, you are in a unique position to help your parent receive the help and care they need. You need to intervene for the sake of their psychological, emotional and financial health. Ask them to seek counseling or enroll in a gambling recovery group.
Example: I’d like to help you find a way to fix this. I know of a 24-hour, confidential hotline you could call (800-333-HOPE) and a few gambling recovery programs. I’d like us to explore one of these services.
Offer to help; explain why you care.
Remember to explain how much you care about them and what you want them to do. By expressing your concern, you can clarify your feelings regarding their gambling and make them accountable for their addictive behavior. Be non-judgmental and offer to help.
Example: I want you to know that I am here to help in any way I can. I wouldn’t have come to you if you weren’t so important to me. If you need support, you have someone you can count on.
Keep the door open for future talks.
There is a difference between being aggressive and being firm. You can be direct without alienating your parent. If you engage them in a hostile way, they will most likely shut down and ignore your attempts to help. Handle the subject with care so they feel like you are a resource in their recovery.
Example: __________, you are a good parent. You’re human. Let’s deal with this together. Take it one step at a time.